Some times Christians think they can ignore sin and it will produce little or no injury. Some may justify their sin as not being large or serious. Others who hear of God’s wonderful message of grace and mercy may have a misunderstanding of His long suffering and think that sin has little consequence.
Position Vs. Progress
It is important that you not confuse your position with God with your spiritual progress. At times you may see that you are making real spiritual advancement, and then a few days later you wonder what has happened to you. This happens in many Christians. As you mature you will recognize that your digressions will be shorter and with less depth of deviation. This is a process of development. You are moving towards spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness. If you remain spiritually healthy, you will continue this process all through your life. The real problem comes when Christians go for years without a clear testimony of spiritual growth and change. When that happens, it is evidence that they have not learned to overcome sin.
Your position or legal standing with God is in Christ. Therefore, when you sin as a Christian, your position does not change, and God does not stop loving you; however, God is displeased. God’s displeasure is not a sign of a lack of His love but quite the opposite. That is why the writer of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines His children when they refuse to resist sin (Heb 12:1-11). He corrects us because He loves us. We are His children. God chastens you, but He does not kick you out of His family. Your legal standing with God is through the grace of Christ Jesus and not on your own merit. It is a free gift (Eph 2:8-9). Your legal position is that you are the righteousness of God; however, John the apostle tells us as Christians that if we claim that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). That is why you can know that your position is not based upon your ability to live sinless but in your adoption into the family of God. Jesus paid the price for all your sins past, present, and future. On the other hand, your progress is related to overcoming sinful patterns in your life. God’s forgiveness and mercy does not mean that sin can be ignored in your life. If you allow known sin to remain in your life, it will adversely affect your progress and relationship with God.
Sinful Patterns and Progress
Occasionally a Christian may sin through a wrong word spoken or action taken, quickly become sorrowful, repent to all whom were affected, and little damage will occur. Though all sin is serious, if that sin is not a pattern in the life of that Christian, progress is not hindered. When I speak of sinful patterns, I am not talking about occasional overt sin. I am referring to the works of the flesh that have become a stronghold in your life. It keeps you from your best in God. These patterns form character flaws and hindrances to your progress.
Sin Divides Loyalties
When you hold on to sin in your heart, then you have made something greater than God. The Bible tells us that when we do this it hinders our prayers (Ps 66:18). It divides our loyalties. This becomes idolatry. It actually brings a war against your soul. That’s right, sin wars against your soul. If you regard sin in your life, it is the same as welcoming the enemy of your soul. Peter the apostle wrote to the Christians and warned them of how important it was for them to abstain from sinful desires and how sin wars against their souls.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
(1 Peter 2:11)
Three things happen in the life of a Christian whose loyalties are divided by holding onto sin. He becomes confused, unsettled, and dissatisfied. His relationship with God and others becomes difficult, scattered, or broken. His path becomes unclear. He has a sense of distance from God and often flounders for direction. That person may even become restless and begin to look for the perfect job, spouse, church, or relationship. Because his loyalties are divided, all other relationships are affected. Conflicts arise with people around them and often with authorities. In reality, his conflict is not with man but with God.
Sin Overshadows Freedom
There is a reproach to sin even if others do not know that you are involved in repeated sinful behavior (Prov 14:34; Ps 39:8). You will lose your sense of freedom before God and become a slave to that sin.
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey– whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom 6:16)
“When we sin as Christians, it is not only our personal relationship with God that is disrupted. Our Christian life and fruitfulness in ministry are also damaged. Jesus warns us, ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me’ (John 15:4). When we stray from fellowship with Christ because of sin in our lives, we diminish the degree to which we are abiding in Christ.”
Sin Opens The Door To Darkness
Sin is of the devil, and whoever does what is sinful is participating with the devil. It is not just your sin but also the whole world of darkness in which you are participating. For example, buying a pornographic magazine to satisfy your lust is more than your sin, it is also participating with that sphere of destruction. When we regard sin, we choose another authority over our lives. Satan only has authority over darkness, for he is called the ruler of darkness. To hold onto your sinful patterns is to participate with Satan.
Sin Can Affect Beliefs
When you hold onto your sin long enough, it can change your beliefs and move you from the principles of God’s word (1 Tim 4:1). This happens as a means of personal justification. You can end up accepting lies and think that God approves of your behavior. I have heard Christians say, “I know what God’s word says, but I don’t think God would want me to be unhappy.” Their disobedience has become their deception. Because they insist upon their own will, their conscience does not bother them (1 Tim 4:2). To overcome sin you cannot ignore, justify, or tolerate it in your life.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994) p. 505
About the Author:
Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.
Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.